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The Girl at Cobhurst By Frank Richard Stockton Characters: 10315

Updated: 2017-11-30 00:04

Just before Cicely reached the back piazza, La Fleur came out of the kitchen door with the telegram in her hand.

"Do you know," she said, "if Mr. Haverley has come home, and where I can find him? Here is a message for him, and I have been looking for him, high and low."

"A telegram!" exclaimed Cicely. "He is at the barn. I will take it to him. I can get there sooner than you can, La Fleur," and without further word, she took the yellow missive and ran with it toward the barn. She met Ralph half way, and stood by him while he read the message.

"I hope," she cried as she looked into his pale face, "that nothing has happened to Miriam."

"Read that," he said, his voice trembling. "Do you suppose-" but he could not utter the words that were in his mind.

Cicely seized the telegram and eagerly read it. She was on the point of screaming, but checked herself.

"How terrible!" she exclaimed. "But what can it mean? It is from Miss Panney. Oh! I think it is wicked to send a message like that, which does not tell you what has happened."

"It must be Miriam," cried Ralph. "I must go instantly," and at the top of his voice he shouted for Mike. The man soon appeared, running.

"Mike!" exclaimed Ralph, "there has been an accident, something has happened to Miss Miriam. I must go instantly to Barport. I must take the next train from Thorbury. Put the horse to the gig as quickly as you can. You must go with me."

With a face expressing the deepest concern, Mike stood looking at the young man.

"Don't stop for a minute," cried Ralph, in great excitement. "Drop everything. Take the horse, no matter what he has been doing; he can go faster than the mare. I shall be ready in five minutes!"

"Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "there ain't no down train stops at Thorbury after the seven-ten, and it's past seven now. That train'll be gone before I can git hitched up."

"No train tonight!" Ralph almost yelled, "that cannot be. I do not believe it."

"Now look here, Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "I wouldn't tell you nothin' that wasn't so, 'specially at a time like this. But I've been driving to Thorbury trains an' from 'em, for years and years. There's a late train 'bout ten o'clock, but it's a through express and don't stop."

"I must take that train," cried Ralph, "what is the nearest station where it does stop?"

"There ain't none nearer than the Junction, and that's sixteen miles up, an' a dreadful road. I once druv there in the daytime, an' it tuk me four hours, an' if you went to-night you couldn't get there afore daylight."

"Why don't you go to Thorbury and telegraph?" asked Cicely, who was now almost as pale as Ralph. "Then you could find out exactly what has happened."

"Oh, I must go, I must go," said Ralph; "but I shall telegraph. I shall go to Thorbury instantly, and get on as soon as I can."

Mike stood looking on the ground.

"Mr. Hav'ley," he said, as the young man was about to hurry to the house, "tain't no use, the telegraph office is shet up, right after that down train passes."

"It is barbarous!" exclaimed Ralph. "I will go anyway. I will find the operator."

"Mr. Hav'ley," said Mike, "don't you go an' do that. You is tremblin' like a asp. You'll be struck down sick if you go on so. There's a train a quarter of six in the mornin', an' I'll git you over to that. If you goes to Thorbury, you won't be fit to travel in the mornin', an' you won't be no good when you gits there."

Tears were now on Cicely's cheeks, in spite of her efforts to restrain herself.

"He is right, Mr. Ralph," she said. "I think it will be dreadful for you to be in Thorbury all night, and most likely for no good. It will be a great deal better to leave here early in the morning and go straight to Barport. But let us go into the house and talk to mother. After all, it may not be Miriam. You cannot tell what it is. It is a cruel message."

Mrs. Drane was greatly shocked, but she agreed with her daughter that it would not be wise for Ralph to go to Thorbury until he could start for Barport. La Fleur was somewhat frightened when she found that her wilful delay of the telegram might occasion Mr. Haverley an harassing and anxious night in Thorbury, and was urgent in her endeavors to quiet him and persuade him to remain at home until morning. But it was not until Cicely had put in her last plea that the young man consented to give up his intention of going in search of the telegraph operator.

"Mr. Ralph," said she, "don't you think it would be awful if you were to send a message and get a bad answer to it, and have to stay there by yourself until the morning? I cannot bear to think of it; and telegraphic messages are always so hard and cruel. If I were you, I would rather go straight on and find out everything for myself."

Ralph looked down at her and at the tears upon her cheeks.

"I will do that," he said, and taking her hand, he pressed it thankfully.

Every preparation and arrangement was made for an early start, and Ralph wandered in and out of the house, impatient as a wild beast to break away and be gone. Cicely, whose soul was full of his sorrow, we

nt out to him on the piazza, where he stood, looking at the late moon rising above the treetops.

"What a different man I should be," he said, "if I could think that

Miriam was standing on the seashore and looking at that moon."

Cicely longed to comfort him, but she could not say anything which would seem to have reason in it. She had tried to think that it might be possible that the despatch might not concern Miriam, but she could not do it. If it had been necessary to send a despatch and Miriam had been alive and well, it would have been from her that the despatch would have come. Cicely's soul was sick with sorrow and with dread, not only for the brother, but for herself, for she and Miriam were now fast friends. But she controlled herself, and looking up with a smile, said, "What time is it?"

Ralph took out his watch and held the face of it toward the moon, which was but little past the full.

"It is a quarter to nine," he said.

"Well, then," said she, "I will ask Miriam, when I see her, if she was looking at the moon at this time."

"Do you believe," exclaimed Ralph, turning suddenly so that they stood face to face, "do you truly believe that we shall ever see her again?"

The question was so abrupt that Cicely was taken unawares. She raised her face toward the eager eyes bent upon her, but the courageous words she wished to utter would not come, and she drooped her head. With a swift movement, Ralph put his two hands upon her cheeks and gently raised her face. He need not have looked at her, for the warm tears ran down upon his hands.

"You do not," he said; and as he gazed down upon her, her face became dim. For the first time since his boyhood, tears filled his eyes.

At a quick sound of hoofs and wheels, both started; and the next moment the telegraph boy drove up close to the railing and held up a yellow envelope.

"One dollar for delivery," said he; "that's night rates. This come jest as the office was shetting up, and Mr. Martin said I'd got to deliver it to-night; but I couldn't come till the moon was up."

Cicely, who was nearer, seized the telegram before Ralph could get it.

"Drive round to the back of the house," she said to the boy, "and I will bring you the money."

She held the telegram, though Ralph had seized it.

"Don't be too quick," she said, "don't be too quick. There, you will tear it in half. Let me open it for you."

She deftly drew the envelope from his hand, and spread the telegram on the broad rail of the piazza, on which the moon shone full. Instantly their heads were close together.

"I cannot read it," groaned Ralph; "my eyes are-"

"I can," interrupted Cicely, and she read aloud the message, which ran thus,-

"Fear news of accident may trouble you. We are all well. Have written.

Miriam Haverley."

Ralph started back and stood upright, as if some one had shouted to him from the sky. He said not one word, but Cicely gave a cry of joy. Ralph turned toward her, and as he saw her face, irradiated by the moonlight and her sudden happiness, he looked down upon her for one moment, and then his arms were outstretched toward her; but, quick as was his motion, her thought was quicker, and before he could touch her, she had darted back with the telegram in her hand.

"I will show this to mother," she cried, and was in the house in an instant.

La Fleur was in the hall, where for some time she had been quietly standing, looking out upon the moonlight. From her position, which was not a conspicuous one, at the door of the enclosed stairway, she had been able to keep her eyes upon Ralph and Cicely; and held herself ready, should she hear Mrs. Drane coming down the stairs, to go up and engage her in a consultation in regard to domestic arrangements. She had known of the arrival of the telegraph boy, had seen what followed, and now listened with rapt delight to Cicely's almost breathless announcement of the joyful news.

After the girl went upstairs, La Fleur walked away; there was no need for her to stand guard any longer.

"It isn't only the telegram," she said to herself, "that makes her face shine and her voice quiver like that." Then she went out to congratulate Mr. Haverley on the news from his sister. But the young man was not there; his soul was too full for the restraints of a house or a roof, and he had gone out, bareheaded, into the moonlight to be alone with his happiness and to try to understand it.

When Mrs. Drane returned to her room, having gone down at her daughter's request to pay the telegraph messenger, she found her daughter lying on a couch, her face wet with tears. But in ten minutes Cicely was sitting up and chattering gayly. The good lady was rejoiced to know that there was no foundation for the evils they had feared, but she could not understand why her daughter, usually a cool-headed little thing and used to self-control, should be so affected by the news. And in the morning she was positively frightened when Cicely informed her that she had not slept a wink all night.

Mrs. Drane had not seen Ralph's face when he stretched out his arms toward her daughter.

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